Troubled teens are often burdened with a mixed collection of learning, emotional and behavioral issues. They might exhibit signs of violence, depression, fretfulness and other long-faced mental health concerns that belie the normal mood swings of developing adolescents.

(Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Ogier)

(Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Ogier)

From military schools and boot camps to residential treatment centers and after-school youth programs, Los Angeles offers many options for parents that are rearing a rebellious teen. An alternative that is gaining sound footing in L.A. is equine-assisted therapy, a process that involves interactions between a challenging juvenile and a sweet-tempered horse.

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“Horses act as a mirror, reflecting back to teens the negative and counterproductive behavioral, communicative and problem-solving approaches they may have employed in their lives,” said Cassandra Ogier, founder and director of The Reflective Horse, an organization that promotes spiritual growth through the eyes of nature.

How are at-risk teens aided?

“We provide programs specially tailored for teens aged 13 and up, offering unique opportunities to build relationships, trust and respect. Our American Paint Quarter Horses help guarded and hard-to-reach teens to open up and release negativity.”

How has this program matured since 2012?

“There’s been a growing need for equine-assisted therapy, because people have identified the importance of self-reflection in an outdoor environment. Horses make it easier for clients to experience a deeper level of connection physically and spiritually, beyond our everyday worries and distractions.”

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How will equine-assisted therapy further develop by 2022?

“It’s going to become a commonly recognized part of treatment within the field of mental health.”

How does equine-assisted therapy help humans become better social beings?

“Because horses function from a premise of a herd identity, they see relationship as partnership and seek to integrate us into the herd, showing us that we each have an important role in our communities.”

What is your message to parents that are rearing a disturbed teen?

“Having worked in the field of equine-assisted therapy and coaching for over a decade, I’ve continuously seen positive, life-changing results in our teenage clients. Working with an animal that weighs over 1,000 pounds inspires teens to develop leadership, respect, compassion and empathy.”

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Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to